I picked up How Green Was My Valley after seeing Mercedes from MercysBookishMusings on Youtube mention the book in this video and then talk about it in her subsequent review. I’d never heard of the book before and it’s one that I probably wouldn’t have chosen otherwise. But I’m glad I did because How Green Was My Valley is a wonderful book and one with a completely enveloping and engrossing story and characters.
The novel is narrated by Huw Morgan as he looks back on his life living in a Welsh mining village. We witness the happiness that comes to the family and the trials they have to go through; Huw as he grows up and learns about the world, faith, and life; and the family and community as they are affected by the changing attitudes and ways of life in the village.
How Green Was My Valley is a highly character-driven novel and it is these characters which pulled me into the story. There’s a strong sense of community throughout the book and, as I was reading, I felt as if I was welcomed into this community and the book. Although there are a lot of characters and I sometimes got confused with all the names and who was married to who, I got wrapped up in the lives of these endearing characters, feeling saddened by their trials and joy at their triumphs. I easily lost time in this book, suddenly finding that I’d read 10 or 20 pages in no time at all, and as I could feel the number of pages left to read diminishing, I realised that I’d enjoyed spending time in the company of the Morgan family.
The story in the novel is slow, but not uneventful. While the story is told chronologically, it is meandering, with one story leading into another. In this way, it felt as if Huw was telling his story naturally, remembering different stories as they came to him, plus adding his reflections as an older man.
It’s the way this story is told which contributed to my enjoyment of reading the prose. What I loved about it was the way that it feels as if the story is coming directly from Huw’s mouth – his speech lilts and I soon grew accustomed to, and enjoyed reading, the Welsh turns of phrase which had, at first, sounded strange to my English ear. Throughout the novel the writing is also rich and poetical, which meant that it did take me some time to finish the book, but it was a joy to read. Sometimes it could be overly sentimental, romantic, and metaphoric, but it seems to fit into this coming-of-age story.
How Green Was My Valley is a wonderful novel which completely transports you back into the Welsh mining village in which it was set and draws you into the lives of the people living there. Llewellyn is clearly skilled in creating rich, full, and real characters, and there are wonderful passages throughout the novel. According to Wikipedia, Llewellyn wrote three sequels to this novel with Huw at their centre, and I would be interested in reading them at some point.
Have you read How Green Was My Valley or any of the sequels? What did you think?